The Dylan Thomas Prize - Surge By Jay Bernard

The Dylan Thomas Prize – Surge By Jay Bernard

This year I was invited back to read and post about one of the nominees for the Dylan Thomas Prize Blog Tour- The world’s largest literary prize for young authors. Again, I chose to focus on a poetry pick, that being Surge by Jay Bernard. So, what is it about?

Jay Bernard’s extraordinary debut is a fearlessly original exploration of the black British archive: an enquiry into the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which thirteen young black people were killed.

While reading this I was shocked that I had no idea what the New Cross Fire was, even after a Google search I found little information about the fire itself and more about the activism afterwards. It seemed crazy to me that so many young people could die and so little seems to be said about it.

Of course, I’m no expert, but it does come across as something not being right. Officially it says that the fire was caused by an armchair but that many people being killed by one fire? It doesn’t seem to add up.

The way in which Bernard has shown this story to a whole new generation of people and has also linked it to Grenfell is incredibly effective. It really made me question how much has changed in this country in regards to racism. I’m a white woman, I’ve not been a victim of racism in my country but this gives me an insight, however small, into what needs to change.

As a debut collection Bernard has a strong voice and I can see more powerful poetry coming from them in the future. This was incredibly impactful and the writing showed extreme talent. While there were parts where I don’t think I fully understood what was going on, I felt that this added to the sense of disbelief.

I would really recommend picking this up if you want to learn about a chapter of history that I fear is often left out of the conversation.

Thank you to the Dylan Thomas Prize for sending me a copy in exchange for this review and good luck to all of the nominees! You can find out more about the prize here.

The Dylan Thomas Prize: Eye Level by Jennie Xie

For this blog I’m pleased to be a part of the Dylan Thomas Blog Tour. Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence.

The £30,000 Prize is awarded to the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under. For this I was offered the change to read Eye Level by Jennie Xie – which I received in exchange for this post.

I’ve never read any of Jennit Xie’s poetry, she’s a new to me poet and I was very impressed. This collection has hypnotising description, in which you can see the scene unfold in your mind. The collection is very much about the self, finding your place and who you are.

I’m not sure how old Xie was when she wrote this but I get the impression of someone in their early 20s and because of this, I deeply connected to some of the poetry. Such as the following line:

“Months of medium-rare insomnia.

Wine makes me confuse

elation with clarity, and so I traverse

the night market, my purse empty.’

It was also interesting to see the way in which Xie describes her travels, places I have been to myself and those I only have to imagine. Her description is rich in its detail but doesn’t spend too long focusing on one thing.

Ultimately this is a collection that will make you look at yourself and the world around you. I highly recommend this for anyone who’s working themselves out, which really I guess we all are. I gave this 4.5 stars and look forward to reading more of her work. I wish her the best of luck for the prize!